People associated with the wrestling program at Hampton High School think it's time for a change.
Since the WPIAL added a team championship tournament to its schedule in 1979, Hampton has qualified for the Class AAA bracket 12 times, but the Talbots have never advanced past the quarterfinal round.
Last season marked the third time Hampton made a quarterfinal appearance, but the Talbots were defeated by Greensburg Salem, the eventual third-place finisher.
"We need to take the next step," Hampton coach Joe Bursick said. "We need to get past the quarterfinals to become a serious threat to win the title."
Hampton enters this season with its best chance to take that coveted "next step." The Talbots have 10 starters returning from last year's quad, which posted a 22-2 dual-meet record.
"We lost three starters to graduation," said Bursick.
Also gone is Brian Estep, a three-year starter who had a 91-31 record. He is no longer enrolled at Hampton.
Bursick has a 28-man squad. His top returnee is Jake Hart, an Edinboro University recruit who placed second in the WPIAL and PIAA Class AAA tournaments at 195 pounds last season.
Hart (40-4 last season) has a 99-20 career record.
"Jake was second in the state last year," Bursick said. "We're hoping he can take the next step and become the school's second state champion."
Other Hampton returnees who posted 20 or more wins last season are Chris Olszewski (26-13 at 132), Kevin Synan (26-10 at 138), Zach Kocak (30-13 at 152), Collin Siford (33-8 at 160), Brandon Olszewski (28-15 at 170) and Noah Shulman (37-6 at 285).
North Allegheny, last year's WPIAL Class AAA runner-up, will be short-handed for this weekend's season-opening Eastern Area tournament at Gateway High School.
"This is the third consecutive year that our football team has qualified for the PIAA tournament, so we're used to this," said Tigers coach Jamie Kyriazis. "We have 10 wrestlers on the football team, and five or six of them will be starters for us. Fortunately, we have 20 kids in the wrestling room."
North Allegheny's football team plays in the PIAA semifinals on Saturday.
"I want to see the football team win the state title, but I also want to get everybody in the wrestling room as soon as possible," Kyriazis said.
"We'll have 10 or 11 entries this weekend."
If North Allegheny wins in the football semifinals, it would play in the PIAA title game at Hershey on Dec. 15.
"I will give the football players up to a week to rest if they need it [after the football season ends]," Kyriazis said. "I'll leave it up to them."
North Allegheny has 10 starters returning from last year's squad, including a pair of PIAA qualifiers, Dom Forys (44-5 at 106) and Alex DeCiantis (37-9 at 170). Forys placed third in the state. DeCiantis is a running back for the Tigers football squad.
Other Tigers who registered 20 or more wins last season are Blynn Shideler (20-15 at 120), Scott Stossel (29-13 at 120), Jesse Rodgers (38-8 at 126), Ben Schweiger (24-22 at 145) and Zach Smith (35-11 at 195).
The Section 3-AAA alignment has changed, as Central Catholic and Plum have joined the section to replace Hopewell and Ambridge, who have moved to Section 4-AAA.
"We will be renewing old rivalries with Plum and Central Catholic coach," Fox Chapel coach Ron Frank said. "We've been in the north section for a dozen years or so. Prior to that, we were in a section with Plum and Central Catholic. Adding those two schools has strengthened our section and sub-section."
Section 3A now consists of Butler Area, Knoch, Mars Area, North Allegheny, Pine-Richland and Seneca Valley.
"Plum and Central have made our section stronger, but it doesn't really affect us until the postseason," Butler coach Scott Stoner said. "North Allegheny and Hampton are still the front-runners in our section."
Plum and Central Catholic join Fox Chapel Area, Hampton, North Hills and Shaler Area in Section 3B.
"Hampton has a strong crew coming back," Kyriazis said. "I think it's going to come down to Hampton and us for the section title."
First Published December 6, 2012 5:00 AM